by Joel Comiskey
We know for sure that the early church met in house churches. Were these house churches independent of each other? I don’t think so. Scripture indicates a connection between the house churches in each city (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:2; 14:23; 16:19). In fact, at times, the early church met continually in both cell and celebration (Acts 2:24-46). Paul and the apostles also preachedpublicly and from house to house (Acts 5:42, 20:20).
Bill Beckham, a key cell church teacher, has done more than anyone to highlight the need for both cell and celebration (see Beckham’s celebration article). He coined the term “the two-winged church.” The cell church emphasizes both wings.
The cell is the church and the celebration is the church. Believers need both. J.I. Packer once said, “I go around telling people that if they’re not with the whole congregation on Sunday, and in the small group somewhere during the week, their Christian lives are unbalanced”(Small Groups Network, 1998).
Some strategies only emphasize the cell (e.g., independent house churches) while others focus solely on the celebration wing (programmed based churches). The cell church teaches that believers need both cell and celebration. Outreach is also more effective when using both wings, rather than just one or the other.
There are periods in the life of the church when one wing is emphasized over the other. For example, when planting a cell church, the cell is the priority because many cell church plants begin with a single cell. The goal is to multiply the single cell and eventually increase the frequency of the celebration. In a transitioning situation, the celebration is stronger until cells begin to multiply and spread throughout the church.